The recent dip in gas prices this fall is good news for four-season RVers, boondockers and snowbirders, and with any luck, the cost of gas will keep going down for summer family camping and toy hauling. Saving money at the pump means more vacations, right? That’s why, here at Guaranty RV, we’re interested in fuel efficiency and ways you can conserve your RV resources like electricity and water, so you can make the most of your free time and enjoy your RV to its fullest potential. In this blog, we’re going to explore some ways for Boondockers and Snowbirders—those folks who are out on the road and in the campgrounds this winter—to save money at the pump, and also how to conserve battery and water use to save even more.
Regular RV Maintenance: Fuel Efficiency
There is no doubt that travelling in your RV saves you money over most other forms of vacation travel, and simultaneously gives you that home away from home feeling that is so comforting at the end of a long day of adventuring. Even when you factor in the initial cost of purchasing an RV, if you are a four-season RVer or snowbirder, and you’re careful to follow good practices as you travel, your motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer will soon pay for itself in the pleasure it brings you.
1. Easily Track and Schedule Maintenance
There are some basic principles to improving fuel efficiency, starting with good maintenance. If a motorhome or tow vehicle engine is not well maintained, gas mileage suffers and, over time, this can add up to a lot of wasted dollars at the pump. A well-maintained RV runs better, which means it uses less gas. If you have a hard time remembering to do the regular engine maintenance yourself, take advantage of our free RV Owner App, which you can use to keep track of your RV’s manufacturer-recommended service plan and maintenance schedule. All you have to do is locate the manufacturer’s service plan in the app, enter the mileage of your RV, and your recommended service schedule will be right at your fingertips. You can then check off tasks as you do them or opt out of ones you don’t want by removing them. You can also customize your service plan by adding maintenance that is specific to your climate and lifestyle. Additionally, if you live near Junction City or if you’re traveling through our part of Oregon, the app allows you to easily schedule maintenance visits with our Service Department. The app is currently only available for Android, but an iPhone version is coming soon.
2. Check Your Tires Regularly
Another key feature to good fuel efficiency is maintaining your tires and tire pressure. RV Education 101, founded in 1999 by the Good Sam Club, compiled statistics from the Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire and the Recreational Vehicle Safety Education Foundation regarding RV tires. They found that RV owners don’t check their tires regularly. Tires in good condition can lose 1 to 2 pounds of pressure a month, and yet these studies showed that nearly 40% of RV owners go 6 months or more without checking their tires. Furthermore, they found that 4 out of 5 RVs on the road had at least one underinflated tire, and a third of those were dangerously low. As well as decreasing your gas mileage, this is an enormous safety risk.
Similarly, overloading your RV, or loading it badly, is a problem both for your tires and your gas mileage. The studies showed that 85% of RVs are unevenly loaded and are out of balance by as much as 400 pounds or more. They also found that almost one quarter of all RVs on the road have overloaded tires. Not only does this make for worse gas mileage, it puts you at risk of tire blowouts and impedes normal brake functions, a combination that can lead to serious accidents and even fatalities.
So, make sure you check your tire pressure regularly and again before every trip, particularly if you are traveling in very hot or cold weather. Also, find out your RV’s carrying capacity and stick to that. There is so much storage space in today’s RVs that it’s easy to overload. And finally, balance your load as much as possible. This includes looking at where and how you’re carrying your tanks. For example, if your RV has has two water tanks, one in back and one in front, fill that back tank last and use if first so that the weight in your RV is distributed more evenly as you travel.
Energy & Water Conservation: Additional Savings
The power source in RVs are rechargeable batteries, and the faster you use the energy that is banked in those batteries, the more you’ll need to stop to recharge and the more money you’ll spend. Not only does conserving energy give you more freedom on the road and when you’re boondocking, but it also saves you dollars in battery replacement. Here are some tips for conserving battery usage.
1. Get the Appropriate Batteries for Your RV
First, make sure you have a battery bank that is appropriate for your vehicle. Think about your appliances and your lifestyle to determine what you need. An air conditioner, microwave or hair dryer drains batteries more quickly than some other appliances. (Look at the spec sheet for the electrical items in your RV to see the consumption in watts or amps.) Try to use those appliances that are the worst offenders sparingly. You can, of course, get a generator to take some of the load off your batteries, but that will also mean putting out money to power it. Another option is to consider having solar panels installed. Obviously, there will be the initial cost of purchase and installation, but this is a supremely cost effective way to power the appliances in your RV that will save you money in the long run. And for those folks who are snowbirding to the American Southwest, the availability of so much sun will be an added boon. Call our Service Department to talk about solar energy for your RV.
2. Saving Energy Dollars on the Road
A good hint for saving energy dollars is to turn your inverter off when you don’t need it. An inverter is about 80% efficient, taking 100 units of energy from your batteries to make 80 units of AC power, and it may use as much as two amps per hour just to keep it on. When you do that math, you could use 40 amps of battery power a day without even turning on one appliance. Our Service Department can install an on/off switch for you.
Some small necessities, like your laptop computer or tablet, can be charged as you travel, working off the power of your engine instead of pulling from your RV batteries. Purchase a small portable inverter that you can plug into the lighter outlet in your RV or tow vehicle, and then plug your device into the inverter. When you’re ready to pull in for the night, you’ll be able to browse the internet without having to use battery power.
3. Conserving Resources When You’re Boondocking
If you don’t have hookups available for electricity or water, you’ll need to conserve your RV resources. If you have appliances that can function on either electricity or propane, propane is the way to go in this situation. You’ll be able to live comfortably for much longer, without running down your batteries before you’re ready to go home.
When it comes to water conservation, you can save yourself time by planning ahead. Bathing, for instance, takes a lot of water. If you plan your trip so that you hit campgrounds with showers every other day or so, you can have a long, hot shower without using up your tanks. On the days between, take a Navy Shower. If you wash your hair over a plastic tub in the sink rather than stepping into the RV shower; this will save you gallons of water. And, if you’re going to be somewhere with privacy, a solar shower is an excellent water and energy saving idea.
E-How also has some other great ideas for conserving water when you don’t have hookups. One great tip is, while you’re waiting for hot water to reach the faucet, catch the cold water in a container. This can then be used to water the dogs, do your cooking, or flush the toilet and reduces your overall water consumption. Alternatively, don’t warm the water by running it until it’s hot enough to use; run cold water into a pot and heat it on your propane burner.
For more ideas about conserving energy on the road or when you’re boondocking, check out RV-Travel-Lifestyle.com.
Live the RV Lifestyle and Save With Our Fuel Efficiency Tips
An RV lifestyle can be both affordable and satisfying when you take time to give your motorhome, tow vehicle and trailer or fifth wheel the kind of maintenance they need to run as efficiently as possible. Taking some money-saving steps is easy and will give you more freedom on the road and in your camping options, whether you’re boondocking or you’re living the snowbird dream. If you’d like to learn more, if we can help you with service or if you have any questions, give us a call.
Photo: Grand Canyon National Park